Lord hits back over expenses

Lord Sanderson of Bowden
Lord Sanderson of Bowden

A Conservative party peer from the Borders has defended his £12,279 expenses claim over the past parliamentary year, saying he has volunteered his services many times in his career.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden is one of 17 lords slammed by the Electoral Reform Society for claiming more than £10,000 despite failing to speak in any debate, submit written questions or sit on a committee.

The 84-year-old did vote on 25 occasions –each time voting “not content” on the various bills put before the house.

He told the Southern this week: “As a volunteer, I served my party since 1965 in many jobs including chairman of the main committee of the UK party and chairman of the Scottish Party, all voluntarily.”

He also cited chairing the Sanderson Commission in 2011 which “brought about the major reforms leading to Ruth Davidson’s appointment to be in sole charge of the Scottish Party”.

He added: “I think you should realise that some people at their own expense give their talents for free and you would do well to study what is involved over the whole period of service before drawing conclusions.”

Darren Hughes, chief exexecutive of the Electoral Reform Society – an independent campaigning organisation working to champion the rights of voters – said that lords who claim expenses without contributing “leaves a nasty taste when a significant chunk of those are claiming more than the average worker takes home in a year”.

“While many peers do work hard, it does our democracy a huge disservice when dozens of unelected peers are taking advantage of the lack of scrutiny, and appear to be gaming the system.

“To the public – and indeed to some lords – the upper chamber has become simply a members’ club, rather than an essential revising chamber.

“This is no fit state for the Mother of all Parliaments. Voters are sick of scandal after scandal – ones which stem from a total lack of accountability.”

Lord Sanderson – who is a board member of the Hawick Cashmere Company and the Abbotsford Trust, having chaired both organisations for several years – said that while he had been an extremely active member of the House of Lords in the past, he was thinking about standing down.

He told us: “I live in Scotland, am now 84, and have played a full part in the past on front and back benches.

“I am considering whether to retire in the near future and you can expect to see me out within a short time.

“I am very interested in Brexit with my industrial connections and you may find me entering the debate once the trade talks develop.”

Meanwhile, a report set up in December last year by the Speaker of the Lords, Norman Fowler, has recommended that the house be reduced by a quarter, with new peers limited to 15-year terms, “in order to maintain confidence in the chamber”.